-- Tom J., Miami
For one, Johnson's agent, Matt Sosnick, told me in a recent conversation that he hopes to work toward that objective. Also, the Marlins remain hopeful of signing a long-term deal. So those are a couple of reasons why I still believe it can happen.
Now, negotiations will be what they are. Ultimately, the money and years may or may not match up. I also believe that if a multiyear contract isn't reached this offseason, that doesn't automatically mean 2010 will be J.J.'s final season with the Marlins. Many in my industry disagree with me, and that's their right. But I'm sticking to my position because I haven't heard anything convincing to sway me otherwise.
J.J. is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, so there is a chance the club can sign him this year or next. There is plenty of time to work out a long-term contract. And like I noted, if a deal isn't reached, then there remains a strong possibility the club will keep J.J. for two years, and -- if he leaves via free agency -- potentially receive two first-round Draft picks as compensation.
Of course, the Marlins can explore trades at any time, but they can do that with any player, if a possible deal makes sense. Obviously, the club's track record of trading away top players speaks for itself. What's different now from 2004 is that there's franchise stability with a new ballpark opening in 2012. The payroll will eventually go up, but the team will continue to spend cautiously. Until the Marlins' revenue stream puts them on more solid financial footing, this is the reality.
If the Marlins are to lose Dan Uggla, how will they overcome losing 30-plus home runs in their lineup with the players they currently have on their roster?
-- Max A., Indianapolis
This is a question I'm asking myself, too. That is a big number to replace. The simple answer is that the players already on the roster can chip in a little bit more. It has worked in the past.
In 2008, the season after Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Tigers, many asked who would pick up the 30 homers and 100 RBIs that Cabrera annually collects. All the 2008 Marlins did was set a team record for most home runs in a season, connecting on 208. Jorge Cantu is a candidate to help pick up the slack. He belted 29 homers in 2008 but just 16 in '09, and he dealt with some nagging injuries that hurt his power numbers.
Hanley Ramirez is also capable of hitting more than the 24 homers he had in 2009. Chris Coghlan finished with nine homers, and perhaps he can be a candidate to hit about 15. Cameron Maybin has power potential, but to expect as many as 15 may be optimistic since we haven't seen him play regularly for extended periods in the big leagues. Prospects Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez each have the potential to reach 20, but they lack experience. So there are internal candidates; it's just a matter of them producing a bit more individually.
What ever happened to Wayne Rosenthal, the Marlins' pitching coach in 2003? Is he still coaching in the big leagues?
-- Sammy S., Homestead, Fla.
When Jack McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg as Marlins manager in May 2003, Rosenthal was promoted from the Marlins' Minor League staff, and he took over for Brad Arnsberg. Rosenthal was Florida's pitching coach from 2003-04, and since then he has been in the Marlins' system, working with their Minor Leaguers. Rosenthal is a highly respected Minor League pitching coordinator and is frequently at the team's complex in Jupiter, Fla. He travels to all of the Marlins' affiliates when necessary to observe and work with pitchers.
Now that the Giants have signed Mark DeRosa to play third base, do you think all of the speculation about Uggla going to the Giants for a pitcher and prospects is dead?
-- Marc O.
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The DeRosa signing certainly seems to put to rest any speculation that the Giants are still interested in Uggla. Now, the Giants are still searching for a power bat, but Uggla doesn't appear to be a fit. I expect the Marlins to be very active in January, re-signing their arbitration-eligible players and exploring trades for Uggla and reliever Renyel Pinto.
There remains a chance Uggla can sign with the Marlins, but even if it reaches that point, look for the club to still explore trade options. The closer we get to the start of Spring Training, the more willing teams may be to make a deal. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins sign Uggla, bring him to Spring Training and look to complete a trade before Opening Day. Once teams are in Spring Training, there may be some injuries that re-open a market for Uggla.
I believe the Marlins are close to getting over the hump, but I don't think they have enough quality veteran players to beat the Phillies and Mets in their division. Every year since 2003, they have stayed young but really not shown that they can be a playoff team even though they have great young talent.
-- John D., Boca Raton, Fla.
I know what you're saying, even though in 2003, the Marlins certainly weren't regarded as a veteran team. Josh Beckett was 23 and in his second season, while Cabrera was 20, Dontrelle Willis was 21 and Juan Pierre was 25. Mike Lowell was 29, and Luis Castillo and Derrek Lee were both 27. Players like Lowell and Lee back then had pretty much the same service time as Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu do now. Johnson will be 26 when the season opens, and Ricky Nolasco will be 27 by Opening Day. In '03, Ivan Rodriguez was pretty much the big veteran, until Jeff Conine was acquired late in the season.
Another misconception is that 2003 was the last year the team had veterans. The core of the World Series team was kept through 2005. It was after '05, when the state funding push for the new ballpark collapsed, that all of those trades were made. So the 2004 and '05 Marlins actually had more overall experience than the championship squad.
I mention all of this because there is a lot of revisionist history with the Marlins. But your point is that you'd like to see them have more veterans to compete with the Phillies and Mets. Right now, even with the Mets reaching a deal with Jason Bay, I wouldn't put New York in Philadelphia's class. Catching the Phillies is going to be tough for anyone in the National League East. The Phillies are clearly the class of the division and a strong favorite to reach the World Series again in 2010.
Now, the Marlins expect to challenge for a playoff spot. I agree that this team right now doesn't look like it has enough. Knowing how this organization operates, it will certainly make moves when it has to. The way the front office thinks is that it will see what it has by Opening Day. If there is an area to address, the club will do so by then.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.